As UCF continues to build its 2022 recruiting class, the foundation will continue to be front seven defensive recruiting. Front seven simply means linebackers and defensive lineman. For the Knights to reach Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s goal of winning a national championship, front seven recruiting will likely be a focal point for 2022 recruiting, as well as each year thereafter. There’s a good reason why.
Teams that continually sign the “War Daddys” up front at defensive line and at linebacker have long since been the teams that produce the best college football defenses. Better against the run, and better pass rushing capabilities. Pretty simple.
What’s not simple is breaking into the group of schools that seemingly always sign those illustrious top 100 defensive tackles, defensive ends and linebackers. However, That’s where UCF began to trend within the last month, and it started with defensive end recruiting.
With the commitments of Jamaal Johnson and Keahnist Thompson, two of Florida’s best high school defensive end prospects, the Knights are headed in the right direction to catch up with other programs that fans generally see ranked in college football’s top 20 recruiting rankings. It’s a long road and will take three or more recruiting classes to completely accomplish the goal, but as the following video clip displays, raw talent matters.
With the long-term goal established, UCF will bring two defensive ends to Orlando for the 2022 recruiting class that get off the snap of the football and attack an offensive line with the physical traits that force opposing offensive coordinators to have to scheme against them. That’s why it’s vital for the Knights to recruit defensive ends at a high level each year.
Once a team can rotate elite defensive ends throughout a game, especially in Florida heat and humidity that will be consistent within the Bounce House, the defense will stand a better chance to be a force. Defensive players chase all game long. In short, it takes more energy to play defense, snap after snap. Watch Thompson come off the ball and quickly defeat the offensive tackle:
Once UCF brings in another top-notch group of defensive ends for the class of 2023, there will be even more ability to rotate players, keep them ready for big moments, and keep opposing offensive coordinators off balance. Winning football is about numbers and depth, when discussing college football’s truly elite programs. The Knights are just beginning the journey, but Johnson and Thompson prove to be a fantastic start.
Once there’s a comfortable rotation of defensive ends, UCF Defensive Coordinator Travis Williams and the UCF defensive coaching staff will be able to dictate schemes of their own because of the talent along the edges of the defensive line. To place it into perspective, defensive end is one of the five pillars of recruiting: quarterback, offensive tackle, cornerback, defensive end and defensive tackle.
Those five positions are valued the most because they dictate the outcome of football games the most often. It’s also why bringing in Auburn transfer defensive end Big Kat Bryant will pay rewards for the 2021 season. In today’s era of college football, a really good team must possess pass rushers. There’s simply no substitute for them, and the ability of Coach Williams and his staff to utilize different schemes with top-notch pass rushers lining up at defensive end help to prove that point.
With the ability to simply rush three or four defensive linemen overall (two defensive ends with either a three-down linemen or four-down linemen formation), the linebackers and defensive backs can be utilized in more concepts that the UCF coaching staff would like, i.e. the defensive play book becomes much larger for those two position groups because the opposing offense will be concerned about the pass rush.
Zone blitzes, man-to-man, mixing and matching zone with man defense, and specialty coverages designed to stop an opposing team’s best offensive weapon will be much more creative and effective with an abundance of defensive end talent. That’s how a college defense can actually dictate to a college offense; that’s how a college football team climbs within the college football polls.
Let the fun begin.
UCF football is just now beginning to entrench itself into the big boys of college football recruiting. It’s one step to land the commitments of two truly excellent Floridia prep defensive ends, but a monumental one, to begin the Knights’ ascent towards college football’s best programs.